Jason Kenney's good week

The Employment Minister meets with premiers and makes nice with political foes

Adrian Wyld/CP

“Alex Atamanenko is thoughtful MP & a real gentleman. Thanks to him for his public service.” —Employment Minister Jason Kenney tweets about Atamanenko’s retirement

Momentum is a good thing to have on your side. Stephen Harper probably wishes he had more. He just announced the biggest free trade deal in the country’s history, for god’s sake. He’s guided Canada through some tough times, and his government’s on track to end several years of sustained deficits, if only everyone could be a little more patient.

Nothing doing, though. Harper’s poll numbers are plummeting. That’s may not be the worst news, since polls are nowhere near gospel when elections are two years away, but bad numbers are not happy numbers. Someone finally compared this whole Senate expenses scandal to the Liberal sponsorship scandal. True, the columnist is one of the government’s enduring critics, and he may be trigger-happy with such comparisons. But he has a readership, and any wider audience for that kind of claim is no good for the government. To be sure, these are cloudy days for the Conservative side.

But you’d never know it if you follow Jason Kenney on Twitter.

Yesterday, the Employment Minister met with a pair of conservative premiers: Saskatchewan’s Brad Wall, the most popular among the country’s provincial leaders; and New Brunswick’s David Alward, a key player in a pipeline that could bring Alberta crude to the east coast. Kenney tweeted that he and the premiers were “working together on job creation & to address the skills gap,” which presumably included some discussion of the Canada Job Grant—the tricky federal program rejected by every premier that Kenney hopes to save.

Just a few minutes before, it came to light that an NDP backbencher from British Columbia’s interior, Alex Atamanenko, was retiring at the end of the parliamentary session. Alice Funke of Pundits’ Guide broke the news. Kenney, who recently applauded the NDP’s measured response to the government’s free-trade negotiations with Europe, thanked Atamanenko—a political nobody, next to a powerful cabinet minister—for his public service.

The guy’s reaching across the aisle. He’s spoken four times in the Commons since parliamentarians returned to Ottawa. Each time, he’s resisted the urge to lash out. Robert Aubin, an NDP MP from Quebec, asked for the minister’s response to a letter from a union concerned about workers’ access to employment insurance records. Kenney’s response: “Mr. Speaker, I will answer when I receive the letter.” Nothing more. Sure, he took the opportunity to call the NDP “out of touch” on the economy when they asked about temporary foreign workers. But that’s basically a polite response, these days.

The Prime Minister’s struggling for momentum. He’s fending off accusations from so many corners. He watches his parliamentary secretary saying the strangest things in the Commons. Meanwhile, Kenney remains off-camera, making nice, meeting premiers.


What’s above the fold

The Globe and Mail Stephen Harper accused his former chief of staff of deception.
National Post Canada plans to sell its luxurious residence in Rome.
Toronto Star The PM continues to deflect blame in the Wright-Duffy affair.
Ottawa Citizen Harper admits the Tories paid Sen. Mike Duffy‘s legal bills.
CBC News Anger overtook patience as Harper answered questions in the Commons.
CTV News The PM insists that parties routinely cover legal bills.
National Newswatch Embattled senators may keep benefits if they’re suspended.

What you might have missed

THE NATIONAL Steel. U.S. Steel announced it would shutter permanently the blast furnaces at its plant in Hamilton, Ont., which means the facility will no longer produce steel. Union leaders and the city’s mayor lamented the decision, but weren’t surprised. The company isn’t closing down operations in the city. It will still process and finish steel from other plants.
THE GLOBAL Spying. Russia has denied claims in two Italian newspapers that it spied on delegates at this year’s G20 summit in Moscow. Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European council, raised the issue with intelligence services that tested the devices. They found the USB sticks packed with Trojan horse viruses that could pick up data from computers.
THE QUIRKY Dentist. Corey Grossman, a dentist in Georgetown, Ont., says he’ll pay willing trick or treaters $1 for every pound of candy they bring to his office after Hallowe’en—but only on Nov. 1. The kids will also receive all kinds of dental goodies to promote proper oral hygiene. Grossman, who says parents like the gimmick, will donate all the collected candy to a local shelter.

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